Before I became a mom I knew I wanted to nurse and always thought that nursing past one wasn’t necessary…then I became a mother, did a lot of research and decided that my goal was to follow the World Health Organization and make it to at least two years. I am lucky to have a very supportive husband and friends that don’t judge our decisions because I know you rarely see kids nursing past one. I even noticed with my close friends that the big majority had weaned by the age of one but I was determined to continue.
Nursing a toddler is much different than nursing a baby and I feel the biggest changes in our nursing relationship happened during 12-24 months. (You can read about our breastfeeding journey from the beginning here: 0-6 months & 6-12 months).
Nursing between 12-18 months:
My daughter was still nursing quite frequently, about every 2-3 hours. She was also nursing at night, anywhere from 2-5 times. I noticed the less she ate or nursed during the day, the more she nursed at night. So during this age I always offered food and milk to make sure she didn’t go to bed hungry.
She still wasn’t a good eater and sometimes I wondered how she was surviving on such little food but my pediatrician kept reassuring me that as long as I was nursing I shouldn’t worry about how much she’s eating. We have a rule at home that we don’t force eating, nor use dessert to bribe our daughter into eating her meals. We want her to learn to listen to her body and eat what she needs and not what we think she needs, so our approach has always been to offer a great variety of foods and let her decide how much and what she eats.
My daughter caught a virus during these months and nursing is always what keeps me sane when she’s sick. She pretty much refuses to eat and drink when she’s sick but will want to nurse a lot so I know she’s getting what she needs and that’s a relief.
Sometime in between these months my daughter stopped nursing when we were out. She was too distracted and excited about what was going on so nursing became a thing we just did at home. I think most people didn’t even know I was still nursing her because she only did it when we were home alone.
In the second year (12-23 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides:
29% of energy requirements
43% of protein requirements
36% of calcium requirements
75% of vitamin A requirements
76% of folate requirements
94% of vitamin B12 requirements
60% of vitamin C requirements
-Read more here.
Nursing between 18-24 months:
Our nursing relationship continued very similar to what it had been up to that point, except she was now nursing less. My boobs felt like they didn’t have much milk in them but I could hear her swallow so I knew there was still some milk left.
During these months we did a lot of traveling, we went to Costa Rica for 7 weeks and then to Europe for 10 weeks so nursing was a lifesaver when she didn’t want to try new foods or when she just didn’t eat enough. She was still nursing about every 3-5 hours and between 2-4 times at night.
When she was close to 23 months I became pregnant. I had already done my research when we were trying to conceive and I had made the decision that I would nurse through pregnancy if she wanted to and as long as I didn’t have any issues during my pregnancy that would require me to stop. This is when the biggest changes occurred due to the fact that milk changes throughout pregnancy.
The first weeks of pregnancy, when I didn’t know I was pregnant, my daughter started nursing a lot more. It seemed like she wanted to be on my boob all day and after a while it started to bother me a little because my nipples would get too sensitive. I had to distract her several times so I could get a break. Luckily this only happened when we were home and when we were out and she was in the carrier.
I remember one day when we were in Spain and I had her in the carrier but on my back and she kept screaming “leche, leche, leche”, which means milk in Spanish. It was like that for about 2-4 weeks and then suddenly she started nursing less. I think my milk supply dropped because of my pregnancy. It seemed like from one day to the other my daughter started eating about 3 times more than what she usually ate. We would have to serve her food again and it seemed like she wanted to eat all day.
Along with the drop in my supply and the increased eating her nursing sessions started to be less and less. I didn’t have to cut down her feedings since she naturally did it herself. Her nighttime feeding turned into one session around 4am and after about a week of that she stopped nursing all together at night. During the day she also dropped some feedings and now she only nurses 3 times for about 5 minutes each time.
I’m not sure if she’s going to end up weaning during this pregnancy but I’m not going to make her wean. I’ll follow her own cues and do what she needs.
Now that I reached my goal of 2 years I’m glad I decided to nurse for an extended period of time. She wasn’t ready at all to be weaned at one, and although I’m sure she would have been fine, I know it wasn’t what was best for her.
There is also something about nursing a toddler… She is now more aware of what’s going on and she can express herself better, which made our nursing sessions so sweet. She would love to hold hands or just look into my eyes. Sometimes she would get silly and start laughing uncontrollably as she tried to nurse. I really enjoyed nursing her because I feel it made our bond stronger. It is truly a special thing.
Now that she’s past two we are still nursing and I’m not sure for how much longer but I’ll definitively post an update when the time comes.
Have you nursed a toddler? What did you think of this experience?